Lt. Michelle Rogers Canepa, commander of the St. Bernard Sheriff’s Office Juvenile Detective Bureau, received the Kiwanis Club of St. Bernard-Arabi Life-Saver Award at a banquet hosted by Kiwanis on July 18 at Rocky and Carlo’s Restaurant in Chalmette.
“It’s truly an honor to even be considered for this award,” Lt. Canepa said at the banquet.
Sam Catalanotto, chairman of the Kiwanis Life-Saver Committee, said the Kiwanis Club gives the award four times a year for special actions, twice to parish sheriff’s deputies and twice to firefighters.
Lt. Canepa, who started her career with the Sheriff’s Office in 2004 as a member of the Communications Division, transferred to the Juvenile Detective Bureau in 2006, following Hurricane Katrina. She was promoted to commander of the bureau in 2013, and in November of 2016 she was made a lieutenant.
During Lt. Canepa’s tenure with the juvenile division, she has had the opportunity to help numerous juvenile victims and their families. She has worked multiple high profile cases which have resulted in the arrest and sentencing of several sexual assault and abuse perpetrators, including a case in which a man was found guilty of the first degree rape of his stepdaughter.
“Through the years of working these types of cases I’ve come to learn that this is what I was meant to do,” Lt. Canepa said. “It’s my passion.”
Lt. Canepa’s passion and determination when it comes to solving these often times tragic cases has been realized by her ranking officers.
“It takes a unique person to do what Lt. Canepa does,” said Col. Chad Clark, chief of detectives of the Crime Investigations Bureau. “Her passion for the work she does is very evident.”
Capt. Mark Jackson, assistant chief of detectives of the Crime Investigations Bureau, echoed Clark’s sentiment.
“Thanks to Lt. Canepa’s continued dedication, we can trust that children will remain safe in the parish of St. Bernard,” Capt. Jackson said.
In addition to her work with the St. Bernard Sheriff’s Office, Lt. Canepa proudly works alongside the Federal Bureau of Investigation as a member of the Joint Child Abduction Rapid Deployment Team, and hand-in-hand with the New Orleans Children’s Advocacy Center who provides forensic interviews of sexually assaulted and abused children.
Lt. Canepa assists the St. Bernard Parish School Board with any situations that may arise within the parish school system, and is the Sheriff’s Office point of contact for the The Louisiana Department of Family Services.
She also has worked joint investigations with the Louisiana Bureau of Investigation’s Cyber Crimes Unit in which numerous warrants have been served leading to the apprehension of many perpetrators who have abused children.
Lt. Canepa, 33, was born and raised in St. Bernard Parish. She is a 2001 graduate of St. Bernard High School, and she studied criminal justice at Southeastern Louisiana University.
Lt. Canepa, and her husband of five years, Agent Brian Canepa Jr., with the St. Bernard Sheriff’s Office Special Investigations Division, share a 4-year-old daughter, Taytum.
Catalanotto said more than a decade ago the Kiwanis Club started presenting these awards as a way to recognize first-responders in the parish for the work they do to protect the public.
“They are the first people through a door,’’ to rescue someone in an emergency, Catalanotto said. “They put their lives on the line,’’ for St. Bernard.
The Kiwanis Club of St. Bernard-Arabi meets every Tuesday at noon in the Sicilian Room at Rocky and Carlo’s Restaurant, 613 W. St. Bernard Highway in Chalmette. Anyone interested in joining Kiwanis is welcomed to attend. For more information, call (504) 616-7312.